EDITORIAL: Intoxication and consent

Photo courtesy of Helena Lopes/Pexels.

By Chelsea Lecce

The music is shaking the ground under your feet. At this point, you’re seriously contemplating in your head whether there’s an earthquake happening or if you’re just losing all feeling in your legs. You see your friend making eyes at you, as she makes her way across the club toward you at the bar counter. She pulls in someone’s hand from behind her, swinging it next to yours for a shake. “You two have fun,” she says, before turning to walk back into the dance floor madness, leaving this stranger standing in front of you.

One thing leads to the next, and somewhere between you saying you were going to look for your friend and the stranger offering to share an Uber home, you ended up at their place. Next thing you know, a harsh ray of sunlight wakes you up as you stumble out of their bed, scrounging around for water.

It’s happened. We’ve all heard about these stories in the news, in our social feeds, in books, movies and even in music. No matter how many crowds rally together to speak up on sexual harassment and rape, it remains a very real problem that could happen to anyone. In some scenarios, our friends aren’t even aware about how uncomfortable we may feel when unwillingly being introduced to people.

As Ryerson’s consent week comes to an end and Hollywood’s current wave of sexual harassment allegations continues crashing over, we think it is important to speak up about how alcohol and consent are far from being best friends.

If someone consents to physical interaction with you but they aren’t fully comprehending what’s happening, who is at fault? How can we reasonably tell if a person is actually aware of what they’re saying or doing when, oftentimes, someone heavily drunk can still make sentences and hold themselves up? It’s always the next morning when party-goers say they remember little snippets of the night, or nothing at all. It’s an ethical dilemma that has no easy answer.

It is scary to think that in your own city, a night out to celebrate a friend’s birthday could end up haunting you for years to come. If you are going to be drinking, be responsible for yourself and keep an eye out for those you are with and any signals they might give out when wanting help. Everyone’s tolerance is different. Those late night stops for burritos are worth it if it means you can then get on the streetcar and hold yourself up, as opposed to stumbling into other riders.

We are not saying that anyone is at fault for being sexually harassed under any circumstance. But for now, the most we can do is set ourselves up for a safe night. Be sure to charge your phone, have cash and bank cards on hand, keep in contact with those you’re with, stay hydrated and always be cautious of your surroundings.

And if you’re one of those people looking for love in the club, if someone’s caught your eye, try to read their body language and pay attention to whether or not they are interested. If all signs lead to them not being in tune with your intentions, or asking you to hold off, then please respectfully move along.

Now throwing it back to Ryerson, is enough being done to help prevent sexual harassment, to educate others and to support survivors?

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